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Destination DIFC: An artsy haven for local and global artists

An exhibition at Opera Gallery, Dubai
An exhibition at Opera Gallery, Dubai

Dubai - Showcasing the incredible depth of creativity and talent in the city and positioning local and global artists, this neighbourhood is a must-visit


Purva Grover

Published: Thu 7 Oct 2021, 6:30 PM

Last weekend, we took you through a fun, vibrant art destination, Alserkal Avenue. This wknd., we’re going to make a stopover at another art-fuelled neighbourhood in the city. Yes, DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre) has emerged as a haven for art practitioners and lovers, and how. Regular visitors suggest there ain’t an address classier and artier than DIFC! Home to the most luxurious art galleries in the city, an astounding array of architectural marvels, and a selection of the most reputed eateries in town — one can’t help but agree that the place is class apart. “As far as I know, the DIFC has always put an emphasis on including art in the DNA of the neighbourhood. Going back to 2008, when we opened our gallery here, it was clear that the DIFC wanted to position itself as an art hub. Back then, most of the spaces on the podium level were occupied by art galleries, showcasing a wide array of styles, nationalities and medium,” says Sylvain Gaillard, director, Opera Gallery Dubai.

A sought-after lifestyle and arty destination

“DIFC is one of Dubai’s most sought-after lifestyle destinations and has had a firm focus on promoting arts since its inception in 2004, and further established its credentials as a regional art hub, following our partnership with Art Dubai this year,” says Saleh Al Akrabi, CEO, DIFC Properties. And it’s true for the destination has always welcomed art and culture enthusiasts to discover new trends, bringing together the world’s most compelling creators and like-minded global and local citizens to discover major arts. For the first time this year, Art Dubai took place under the DIFC Gate, giving the entire community a unique vibe for a week! Maliha Tabari, founder, Tabari Artspace, a gallery which moved from its previous space to DIFC in 2006, says, “As a gallery, we’ve always had an international focus when it comes to our programming that connects the artists of the Mena region and its diaspora with a global community or institutions and art appreciators. As such it was important for us to be in a location that reflects this ethos and the DIFC, as an international hub for commerce with its fast pace and visitors from diverse geolocations, embodies this.”

Kristel Bechara Art Gallery
Kristel Bechara Art Gallery

So when did DIFC emerge as an art hub for Dubai and even the UAE?

We take the question to Kristel Bechara, artist and gallery owner, Kristel Bechara Art Gallery. “Over the past two years, it has been an incredible pleasure witnessing DIFC ‘really’ become the art hub of Dubai. It had always been a home for numerous galleries since its inception. However, it emerged as a safe haven for the arts in the region after the successful launch of the 14th edition of Art Dubai (2021), which was one of the first global in-person art events to take place during the pandemic. This really was a mark of an organisation that is dedicated to championing the resilience of Dubai’s art scene.” And what made it happen? Gaillard sums it up well when he says, “I think it came from the governing body of the DIFC, who from the beginning, thought that including art within a business district would make a lot of sense. We can tell that the people in charge are passionate about it, we always receive full support from them when it comes to displaying artworks in public areas. The DIFC has also continuously helped galleries promoting their programmes through various initiatives.”

Architecture and the people, another attractive and inviting factor

“DIFC offers a sense of community unlike any other space as it is home to a handful of galleries that represent numerous artists and you are able to meet and connect with a wide range of members of Dubai’s art scene, be it the up-and-coming artists or the established thespians,” says Bechara. And yes, at the heart of this strong cultural exchange is the Gate Avenue. “It spans 286,000 sq. ft, and has a diverse portfolio of leading lifestyle, retail, art, fashion, food and beverage brands,” says Akrabi. Then, you also have the amazingly designed premises of Gate District that contribute immensely to the ambience of the entire space and the overall ‘DIFC experience’. “This integrated lifestyle destination is like no other and offers artists the opportunity to showcase their works to a global audience,” adds Akrabi.


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